Story By: KENNY BRUCE / NASCAR – BRISTOL, TN – Forget about the superspeedways. Chase Elliott roared to his first pole of the season Friday, capturing the No. 1 starting spot for Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Elliott, driver of the No 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, toured the 0.533-mile, high-banked track with his final round run of 14.568 seconds at 131.713 mph. Prior to Friday’s effort, all four of Elliott’s previous poles had come on what had been the series’ restrictor-plate tracks – three at Daytona International Speedway and one at Talladega Superspeedway.
“I’ve been wanting a pole outside of Daytona and Talladega for quite some time now,” Elliott, a three-time Cup race winner, said. “I felt like I was able to deliver a pole to my team that really deserves it, on way more than one occasion over the years. I felt like I haven’t (done) my part.”
Elliott was eighth quickest in the opening round that saw the 24 fastest advance; he was second fastest in the second round to advance to the final 12.
He had been eighth in the day’s lone practice.
“I think Ryan probably threw me a bone, it looked like he messed up,” Elliott said of fellow competitor Ryan Blaney. “He had a pretty good lap going.
“The starting spot is great, but it’s also just a starting spot. I think the first pit box down there is probably more important than anything.
“Our car has pace so I think if we can get it driving good, I think we have a chance (on Sunday).”
Blaney, driver of the Team Penske No. 12 Ford, was “One Lap Blaney” through the first two rounds, racing his way to the top of the scoreboard with single-lap efforts. But the final round proved to be a different story.
“I got greedy,” Blaney admitted. “Got greedy into (Turn) 3 and missed it. Probably would have run about a (14).45. Got loose out of (the turn) and lost it just a little bit.”
As a result, Blaney will start behind Elliott, third on the 37-car grid. His second-round run of 14.528 seconds at 132.076 mph did top the mark of 131.407 mph established by Denny Hamlin in 2015 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, to set a new Bristol qualifying record.
William Byron will start alongside Elliott, his HMS teammate, after locking down the No. 2 starting spot. It was the second consecutive race in which Byron had qualified on the outside of the front row.
Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing will begin the race in fourth and fifth.
Kurt Busch, winner of last year’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol, struggled in qualifying and failed to make it out of the first round. The former series champion will start 27th Sunday.
“Car was loose; we didn’t get a good time,” Busch said. “That’s all I have. I did one lap and I’m in here talking for 30th. Car was loose. We didn’t get a good time.”
Points leader Kyle Busch did not advance to the final round and will start 17th. Busch is a seven-time winner at BMS and is the defending champion of the Food City 500.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying – 59th Annual Food City 500
Bristol Motor Speedway
Friday, April 5, 2019
1. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 131.713 mph. 2. (24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 131.371 mph. 3. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 131.182 mph. 4. (20) Erik Jones, Toyota, 131.057 mph. 5. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 130.700 mph. 6. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 130.602 mph. 7. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 130.229 mph. 8. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 130.168 mph. 9. (21) Paul Menard, Ford, 130.026 mph. 10. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 129.824 mph. 11. (6) Ryan Newman, Ford, 129.640 mph. 12. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 129.622 mph. 13. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 130.477 mph. 14. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 130.477 mph. 15. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 130.274 mph. 16. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 130.229 mph. 17. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 129.824 mph. 18. (34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 129.789 mph. 19. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 129.657 mph. 20. (41) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 129.570 mph. 21. (95) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 129.351 mph. 22. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 129.317 mph. 23. (19) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 129.177 mph. 24. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 128.339 mph. 25. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 128.658 mph. 26. (8) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 128.554 mph. 27. (1) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 128.305 mph. 28. (43) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 128.288 mph. 29. (36) Matt Tifft #, Ford, 128.031 mph. 30. (47) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 127.258 mph. 31. (00) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 126.603 mph. 32. (32) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 125.675 mph. 33. (51) Gray Gaulding(i), Ford, 125.576 mph. 34. (52) Bayley Currey #, Chevrolet, 123.833 mph. 35. (66) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 121.898 mph. 36. (77) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 115.202 mph. 37. (15) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.